When to Test Digital Content
In Lab or Online

Often when we get asked to submit a proposal to test digital content, our clients ask what the pros and cons are of testing the content in a lab setting versus online. There are clear roles for each. Here we’ll look at when to test digital content In Lab or Online.

In Lab Digital Testing:

The best time to test digital content in the lab is:

  1. When you are in the early stages of the design process
  2. When your content requires more of a subconscious emotional read

Testing early-stage dynamic content (videos/ads etc.) where multiple scenarios have been identified plus where you need to best measure engagement using neuro biometric tools is when we suggest the use of In Lab testing.

The pros/cons of digital In Lab testing include:


    • Longer interviews-allows for more in-depth testing
    • Can leverage neuro/biometric tools to better measure subconscious behaviors (Eye Tracking, EEG, Heart Rate, GSR)
    • Better respondent engagement and effectiveness


    • Higher cost
    • Longer field times

Online Digital Testing:

If speed or time are not on your side, or if you want a large sample to validate a design, then online testing is the way to go. The biggest sacrifice for doing any online testing is the “depth” of testing you can do. While surveys or conscious-based testing are obviously no issue online, subconscious testing is more limited.

Online Eye Tracking, for instance, records only eye movements which is not as sensitive as in-person eye tracking where infrared cameras record reflections off of the cornea and pupil. In-person Eye Tracking is far more sensitive to deliver reads on the individual components of a design than online.  It is far more accurate as a result. Other biometric tools like heart rate, GSR (Galvanic Skin Response – fancy name for a sweating response when your body gets excited), or even EEG (Electroencephalography) are not available for use online as well. However, facial coding and other emotional metrics can be used with online testing.

Online provides a breadth of testing and can deliver results faster and more economically with a broader sample for testing purposes.

The pros/cons of digital Online testing include:


    • Lower cost
    • Faster field times
    • Some biometric tools including eye tracking, facial coding


    • Fewer subconscious behavioral tools are available

If you have any more questions on how to best test digital content, we would love to hear from you. Email us and we’ll be in touch.

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